Non-Native Weeds Are Engulfing the Ancient Breeding Grounds of Mono Lake’s California Gulls

Mono Lake Committee’s Bartshe Miller holds an invasive five-horn smotherweed in this undated photo.(Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

Mono Lake Committee’s Bartshe Miller holds an invasive five-horn smotherweed in this undated photo.(Credit: Brian van der Brug / Los Angeles Times)

The people who guard the gulls that nest on Mono Lake’s islets in the eastern Sierra Nevada have used dynamite, electric fences and lawsuits to protect the birds from wily coyotes and diversions of water to Los Angeles.

Through it all, California gulls returned each year to rear new generations of their species in roughly 25,000 nests.

Now, the gulls are facing a botanical invader they may not be able to overcome: thickets of invasive weeds that have engulfed most of their breeding grounds.

This year, 11,075 nests were counted, the lowest number recorded over the 34-year course of one of the longest studies of birds in North America. The largest number of gull nests ever recorded at Mono Lake was about 32,000 in the early 1990s. The number of nests has been in gradual decline since 2004, and in steep decline since 2016, biologists say.

Read the full story on LATimes.com.

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